Standard Article

Communicable Diseases

  1. C. P. Farrington

Published Online: 15 JUL 2005

DOI: 10.1002/0470011815.b2a08012

Encyclopedia of Biostatistics

Encyclopedia of Biostatistics

How to Cite

Farrington, C. P. 2005. Communicable Diseases. Encyclopedia of Biostatistics. 2.

Author Information

  1. The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JUL 2005


Many of the statistical methods used in communicable diseases are similar to those used in other areas of epidemiology. Clinical trials, risk-based epidemiological studies, and survival analysis for example account for much of the infectious disease statistician's toolkit. In addition, however, some more specialized techniques are required. This article aims to give a flavor of the range of statistical methods used in the field of infectious disease epidemiology. Only the simpler versions of the techniques are covered, with references to more complex methods. For common childhood infections, survival models are reinterpreted in the context of epidemic transmission models to estimate hazards of infection, and to derive epidemiological parameters such as the basic reproduction number. Basic back-calculation methods are described for estimating the incidence of infections with long incubation periods such as AIDS. Simple stochastic models such as branching processes and chain binomial models for use with outbreak data are outlined. Methods are described for estimating latency and infectious periods. Cluster detection methods are also reviewed in the context of identifying infectiousness and detecting outbreaks. Statistical methods for evaluating vaccine efficacy and safety are discussed. Finally, some statistical topics relating to diagnostic testing for infectious diseases using laboratory techniques are touched upon.


  • communicable disease;
  • epidemic;
  • force of infection;
  • infectious disease;
  • outbreak;
  • stochastic model;
  • transmission;
  • vaccination